“There are no more bad cars.”
That’s the phrase I keep overhearing at auto shows and press events, from both the press and the PR folks. Now, in a grand sense of things, this is true. Modern cars built in the last five years are more reliable, better built, safer, and offer such a huge array of features formerly unseen on anything costing less than $80,000. Even expensive European sports cars (barring flammable Ferraris) are more reliable and easier to live with than ever before. But as we’ve raised our standards for what a “good” new car must deliver, that means automakers must improve their cars at a more significant pace.
And believe it or not, there are more than a few cars that haven’t been able to keep up. In fact, there are four. They’re not bad to the level of the 1985 Hyundai Excel, but they're cars I'd go out of my way to say to someone “Wait, you’re making a mistake!” Can you think of more?
This midsize sedan was last overhauled for the 2004 model year, and unlike the Ford Escape – which ran without an update for even longer – the Mitsubishi Galant never sold particularly well. In fact, the entire company’s US sales have been in steep decline since that new Galant, with 2011 being the one positive rebound year. Unlike Honda, Toyota, or Ford, which treat the midsize sedan market for what it is (gold), Mitsubishi is just broke. It’s content to skip major auto shows and leave some of its cars looking quite pathetic. Witness the Galant’s meager 160-horsepower engine, a 4-speed automatic, no folding rear seats, and an old interior with subpar materials. Besides its aged exterior, the Galant’s fuel economy can’t match Hyundai or Kia, nor will you find any active safety options or anything at all innovative. Mitsubishi agrees – it’s getting rid of the Galant (and several other cars) by 2014.
This isn’t the worst car on here, despite that it reminds me of Namco, TJ Maxx, and other discount stores with dated décor. My fiancée rented a Sedona to move her brother into school, and just like every minivan, it hauled a lot of junk for little money. But the features that make minivans truly fun – not to mention higher-quality interiors and more pleasing, modern styling – are not here in the Sedona. You won’t get the ultra-widescreen that can display two video inputs, including HDMI, or a big drink cooler box (Odyssey). You won’t get two rows of seats that hide like a Jack-in-the-box, leaving a completely flat loading floor without unbolting any of the seats (Caravan). You don’t get the resale value of the Sienna. The Sedona's $25,700 starting price isn’t any bargain, either. Go with the established minivan players, or don’t go at all.
Chevrolet is gutting the current Impala and replacing it with an all-new car for 2014, but given that it’s several months away, you could conceivably buy a 2012 Impala for the rest of this year. It’s a large, comfortable sedan with a big trunk. Thing is, a lot of better-made, better-equipped cars fall into that exact category. The Impala doesn’t even offer a navigation system (even Suzuki will toss in a detachable Garmin). When the 2014 Impala comes out with its active safety features, app-enabled dashboard, and Camaro-like styling, you’ll forget the Impala was ever this old and behind the times.
I recently took out a 2012 Honda Insight, and as soon as I drove off, I realized this car was just like I drove it three years ago. It’s not a great hybrid and certainly not a great Honda. While priced about $5,000 less than the more conventionally-styled Civic Hybrid, the Insight’s less-advanced, less-powerful powertrain can’t match the Civic’s numbers or its refinement. The Toyota Prius costs less than the Civic Hybrid, delivers even greater mileage, and feels like it was screwed together with a lot more care. The Insight tries to be the “value” hybrid, and it is. There’s plenty of compromise, noise, and poor brake feel to pass around the entire cheap-feeling cabin. Spend more and you'll get more.
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About Boston Overdrive
|Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
|Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
|John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
|Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
|Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
|George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee